Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Questioning loyalty to capitalism

The motivating issue of religious conservatives, according to Lisa Miller in Newsweek, has shifted from abortion and gays. The new issue is built on the old Protestant belief that America is God's own special country. This American Exceptionalism has been around pretty much as long as the country has. The next piece is the belief that it is free-market capitalism that created America's strength. Perhaps it did. I will note, however, there are many things that are great about this country that have nothing to do with capitalism and that the marketplace cannot solve all of our issues.

On that we add the big motivating issue, as Tony Campolo put it, "[A]nybody who is raising questions about loyalty to the old laissez-faire capitalist system is … unpatriotic, un-American, and, by association, non-Christian." And what might that disloyalty look like? Well, one example is the support of corporate bailouts.

It is possible that patriotism, not for country but for an economic system, might be the wedge issue of the next election cycle. The talking heads on the Right, notably Palin and Beck, are already at work on their message of wrapping the "shining city on the hill" around today's economic problems. The subtext is the foes of capitalism are weakening the country (and its exceptional place in the world) and by extension persecuting patriots and Christians. Though the article doesn't say so, there's a good chance that when patriotism gets used as a wedge issue the outcome is fascism.

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